Swiss Citizenism v. American Racialism
Print Friendly and PDF

The Swiss popular vote to end its half-decade experiment with allowing unlimited immigration from European Union countries (of which Switzerland is not a member) had multiple causes. One is that the EU has kept expanding eastward into low wage countries. On January 1, residents of Romania and Bulgaria became eligible to move to any EU country (and therefore Switzerland, too). 

Romania and Bulgaria are home to a lot of poor people, most of them not particularly troublesome except from the usual impact of driving down wages and raising housing costs. 

But some — the Roma — are unwelcome anywhere they go. If you were a Romanian official, wouldn't you want to put on a slideshow for your Gypsy residents (whose neighborhoods resemble Borat's hometown — it was filmed in a Romanian Gypsy village) about the glories of life in gleaming Switzerland?

And now the E.U. is, under pressure from the U.S., gesturing toward letting in 45 million very low wage Ukrainians. The E.U. doesn't really want to do that, but Davos Man is angry and emotional right now, and is looking to pick a fight with Russia over Ukraine, so Washington and NATO might pressure the E.U. into doing something very stupid.

More generally, Switzerland is probably the most famously beautiful country in the world, so its residents aren't happy with the steadily rising population. Of course, in America, we know that Switzerland would look much better if it were transformed into the set from "Her" or "Elysium." If you don’t believe me, just ask Matthew Yglesias or Ed Glaeser. Admit it: unless you grew up in barn, all those cows are just creepy. And those peasants with pitchforks … 

Many in America can't understand why the Swiss aren't as enthusiastic about importing their co-ethnics to better battle for ethnic domination within Switzerland as American minorities are said to be. For example, the largest number of non-Swiss in Switzerland are Italians, but the Italian-speaking canton voted strongly to crack down on immigration from Italy.

Here in the U.S., Marco Rubio and Luis Gutierrez are celebrated in the media for agitating for more Hispanic immigration. In 21st Century America, race/ethnic loyalty is held to trump ties of citizenship (unless the race is white and the ethnicity is pre-Ellis Island, in which case race/ethnic loyalty is unspeakable).

The Swiss, in contrast, put much value on what I call Citizenism. A Swiss Italian is expected to value the welfare of his fellow Swiss citizens more highly than his fellow Italian co-ethnics. And they do. In contrast to the U.S. where the federal government constantly absorbs powers allotted under the Constitution to the states, the Swiss keep much of government power at the level of the cantons, which are mostly monolingual. 

This lowers the urge to wage Elect a New People campaigns. If Italian citizens pour into Italian-speaking Ticino the way Mexicans pour into California, it doesn't give Italian ethnic Swiss all that much more power nationally the way it it perceived as giving Hispanic ethnic (although non-Mexican) politicians such as Rubio more power.

But Swiss voters are highly nationalistic about a few important policies.

Moreover, Swiss voters understand the law of supply and demand well. More immigration from Italy into Italian-speaking Ticino drives down wages for Italian speakers and drives up land prices. Why is that good Swiss Italian citizens and their children?

Print Friendly and PDF